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Accepting and Loving One’s Postpartum Body

Pregnancy is a beautiful but challenging stage in a woman's life. While being a mother is an incredible experience for most people, you will face hormonal changes, emotional turmoil, and physical discomfort that may last even after the baby is born.

When you have a baby, your body expands and grows in ways you could never have imagined. Stretch marks and sagging skin may throw you for a loop, but these changes are temporary, and learning to love your new body is all part of the process. New mothers have every reason to love their bodies, as bringing another life into the world is nothing short of a miracle.

Despite the inevitability of physical changes, many mothers struggle with body image and self-esteem after childbirth. If you are also trying to shift your perspective, continue reading for five tips on learning to love and embrace your postpartum body.

1. Give it some time.

If your body spent at least nine months changing to accommodate your growing child, you can’t expect the weight you gained during pregnancy to disappear overnight. Stop comparing yourself to celebrities you see on social media—they have personal chefs and trainers to help them lose their postpartum pounds.

Instead of attempting to live up to some unattainable body type, set realistic weight-loss goals. Most mothers lose around 13 pounds during childbirth. While you’ll shed retained fluids and more weight during the first week after delivery, the fat stored during pregnancy won’t vanish on its own. But, by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you can lose 10 to 15 more pounds in the following months.

Remember to be patient and give your body time to recover from childbirth. If you lose weight too soon after giving birth, it may take you longer to heal. Wait until your six-week checkup before trying to lose weight. If you are breastfeeding, you shouldn't drastically cut calories until your baby is at least two months old and your milk supply has normalized.

2. Treat yourself.

Many mothers find pregnancy and childbirth physically and emotionally exhausting. And your body will continue to adjust and adapt as the days pass. While taking care of your baby is your top priority, don't neglect your own needs. Schedule some "me" time at least once each week. Leave the baby with your partner for an hour or two, ask for help with the laundry and other chores, and do something you enjoy.

You might notice that if you stop obsessing over body image, feelings of self-consciousness disappear. So, treat yourself to a day at the spa, pamper your skin, go shopping, or meet your girlfriends for lunch. Reward yourself with a few of your favorite indulgences—you've earned it!

3. Move your body.

Being active may seem like the last thing you want to do when you are exhausted. But regular exercise can help you relax, improve your mood, stay fit, and feel more energized. Movement and exercise can help your body recover after delivery and prevent postpartum depression.

Whether it's running, cycling, dancing, yoga, or swimming, you'll be able to do it again! Still, do not feel forced by external factors or unrealistic expectations to resume these activities before you are ready. Physical activity is essential, but it must not be focused on weight loss. It should be something you do because it makes you feel good and improves your physical and mental well-being.

4. Focus on health, not form.

When attempting to lose weight after giving birth, it is crucial to prioritize health over appearance. Your body may take months—if not years—to get close to its pre-pregnancy size and shape, but you cannot put your health on hold for that long. Don’t fall into the trap of constantly weighing yourself and measuring your waistline—this is detrimental to your emotional and physical health.

As a new mother, developing a healthy routine involves balancing quality sleep, good nutrition, light exercise, and your baby's needs. Initially, this can be difficult, especially with a newborn. However, once your little one grows less dependent on you, you can establish a healthy eating and exercise routine that focuses on your inner health rather than your outer appearance.

5. Accept your new life.

Recognizing physical changes as a part of a wonderful phase in your life is a vital step toward respecting the new you. Take a moment to study your body objectively, without judgment or criticism. The excess skin and stretch marks are there because your skin has expanded to make room for your baby. Your body is the way it is—looks the way it does—because it created the most remarkable thing.

It's also normal to experience emotional ups and downs when adjusting to parenthood. The responsibilities involved in keeping a tiny person safe and alive—from regular feedings to sleepless nights—can be overwhelming. As your hormone levels fluctuate in the days following childbirth, it's typical to feel weary, frustrated, anxious, or depressed. But your new life will also be full of exciting experiences and priceless memories.

Take this opportunity to bond with your partner and celebrate the birth of your child. Give your baby some tummy time in a fun and safe play gym, and commemorate every milestone your baby reaches. Take this time to strengthen the bond with your growing family as you embark on a new journey.

Final Thoughts

Recognize and respect your body for bringing this new miracle into your life. While many situations may leave you feeling defeated, remember what an incredible adventure you are on and lift yourself right up.

With helpful tips from other mothers and a few investments in your health and well-being, you will gradually start feeling more confident in your body. 

Sign up to MomsBeyond and join a community of amazing mothers from around the world. Connect and share tips and tricks that work for every type, size, and shape of modern-day mom.

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